Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ulan

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

As a young child, Maya (Nadine Lustre) has always been inquisitive and curious about her environment. Raised by a superstitious grandmother, she witnesses the marriage of two tikbalangs one rainy afternoon, which supposedly explains the unlikely combination of sun and rain that day. Feeling unlucky in love, she feels like her affinity with the rain has cursed her for life as she suffers from one heartbreak to another. Just when she promises not to let herself be hurt by heartbreak any longer, she meets Peter (Carlo Aquino) on a rainy day. The two tread with caution yet eventually fall for one another. As she tries to open her heart anew, she ends up crying on the lap of a raging typhoon who tells her as a child that one day she will experience the biggest tragedy of life, which is the inevitable death of love itself or the ability thereof.

Count on Filipino films to repeat a formula ad nauseam until it starts to taste like gum chewed for the umpteenth time. Rom-Coms heavy on dialogues have been a trend for a while. Even though such subgenre has proven to be cathartic thanks to its ability to unabashedly say out loud on our behalf what we truly think about life and love, such trend will eventually get old. Ulan dodges that bullet by focusing more on visual storytelling anchored on a jaded view of romance. See more, listen less.

That actually felt like poetry onscreen. A material like this comes once in a while, not quite palatable to the general public but ends up finding a niche audience along the way. This is probably the closest you’ll get to magical realism in Philippine cinema nowadays, an inconvenient yet poignant marriage between a modern romance and a tale reminiscent of superstitious folklore. As disjointed as it all might seem, the film is kept together by its central theme of love and rain.

Talking about rain, it probably deserves its own billing being a character in itself. From the get-go, the narrative makes it a point to utilize this natural phenomenon not just as a plot device but also as an effective tool for setting the mood for each scene. We can even argue that the rain and its personification here boasts more character development than some of the members of the cast. As soothing and nurturing as it can be destructive, this central theme is utilized to full potential to demonstrate the versatility of life and how it can differ based on varying perspectives.

Another selling point of the film is its liberal use of imagination. Maya has a very creative way of viewing things around her which translates to good visuals onscreen. This is not to say that the CGI is convincing, but it seems as though they had been presented in a more simplified manner to reiterate their nature as figments of someone’s imagination. While seemingly absurd, many would actually qualify as symbolic metaphors of everyday realities as well as of life itself.

Lustre carries the film convincingly, Aquino just playing support. It’s always refreshing to see 1/2 of a popular love team testing the waters with another onscreen partner, except that this film seems more of an opportunity for Lustre to prove that she can headline a movie without James Reid. Despite her pretty morena features, she is able to capture Maya’s insecurities with just the right combination of vulnerability and a hint of panache.

Kudos is also well-deserved by the child actress who portrays her young counterpart. The non-linear plot could have resulted in a narrative that is all over the place yet the synergy between these two actresses offers a good glimpse of the character’s persona through parallel events happening in the two timelines.

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